The Stories that Never Get Reported
Categories: Heathers Blog
I felt sad again this morning when I read yet another newspaper article about someone who ‘tried the Catholic Church for awhile’, but ultimately found spiritual fulfillment in some other path or spiritual practice. I didn’t feel sad that this was the lady’s story in the article; I completely respect that. I even understand something about it. I felt sad that barely a week goes by that I don’t hear a news report about someone who, ‘tried the Christian thing’ or was ‘raised in a sort of Christian family’, ‘but found it oppressive and later found true freedom somewhere else’.
Earlier this week I was on the treadmill, watching an interview with a woman who left ‘religious life’ as a Catholic nun, to become a sex therapist. Of course, as the interview unfolded, it became apparent that becoming a sex therapist and leaving the order, were mutually exclusive events; but don’t the public love the idea that the church sexually oppresses people, and that they don’t discover freedom in their sexuality until they leave the church. The headline had such a nice ring to it, whether it’s a very true representation of the reality or not.
Since when did it become so profitable for the media to sell the idea that Christianity is an oppressive, out of date religion?
Not that I at all deny that for many people, their experience of the church has been oppressive, even damaging.
It’s just, we never hear the other stories …
When do we hear the reports,
“I was a drug addict and a prostitute, until I found Jesus.”
“I lived in constant fear, until I found Jesus.”
“I was in a dark place, until Jesus brought me into the light.”
“My sex life was a disaster, until I was healed by Jesus.”
I hear these stories all the time, just not in the news. But there are plenty out there.
I was talking to a friend this week who has found healing through the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf … she has encountered the power of the cross, but was also expressing her concern about whether becoming a Christian, would mean having the exclusive view, that only Christians are good with God, and everyone else is stuffed.
Especially in a world that says, ‘Actually we’re all good; it’s the Christians who are stuffed!’
We have been focusing on the meaning and achievement of the cross at St Cath’s this month. I myself have found it challenging. There’s no doubt, the scripture claims that Jesus is exclusively the answer to the problems in the world and the way to God. It also claims that what is exclusively wrong with the world, is that we are all out of relationship with God. Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1.7) I notice, he names redemption first, then forgiveness. Jesus paid a price and because of that, forgiveness was total and final. He has dealt with the barrier between us and God. He has bought us a ticket out of prison.
We naturally ask, ‘Isn’t this claim to being the one true path, just one of the ways the church manipulates and oppresses people? Isn’t that just what religion does?’
And yet, in conversation with my friend, we agreed, it makes a lot of sense. Christianity (and Judaism really) are the only faiths that claim that the problem with the world is that we are all out of intimate relationship with the God who made us and loves us. Isn’t that offensive? Yes. Isn’t that true? Yes. Wouldn’t the world be a different place, if the whole world were in intimate, real relationship with God, knowing his love and walking in his ways? Yes.
My friend says, “It feels wrong to say that someone is lost ….. (pause) ….. but … they are.” We’re all lost. That is why the cross is so offensive. That is also, why it is the answer.
Of course, not every church preaches this gospel, or lives it very well. False teachings creep in … ‘the church is the answer’, ‘the cross is a symbol of forgiveness, nothing more’, ‘God can’t really be known in this life, but you might get to know him in heaven, if you are a good enough person’ …
No, he is knowable, because he has born the death we all have coming to us, in the person of Jesus Christ and removed every barrier that we put between us and God and paid the price for our sins. Change can start now. Liberty is possible, from every form of pain and trauma and from death itself.
The more I follow Jesus and the more I surrender my own mistakes, my own wrong doing to him, the more I realize, that nobody’s really buying the idea, that we’d all be okay if we were just free to find our own way, and if the church stopped telling us we are sinners. Nobody’s really buying that.
Deep down we know, that we’re not okay;
That not everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger;
That not everything happens for a good reason; and
That when all the noise stops, there is a void inside, waiting to be filled, waiting for the love of Dad, who made us and loves us, and whose love we desperately need; and
That life without him is …. this.